Minutemen bassist Mike Watt once paid tribute to Wire's super-short art-punk songs by thanking the band for "the idea," and if the five Welshmen in El Goodo were any kind of gentlemen, they'd send a similar thank-you to The Jesus & Mary Chain, which made the world safe for deeply scuffed-up variations on frivolous '60s pop. The J&MC made violent love to Jan & Dean; El Goodo, for its part, sears the sunshine pop of The Mamas & The Papas and Curt Boettcher with acid until it gives off a colorful smoke. Starting with the syrupy rumble of "Life Station"—which rises to the level of an everybody-clap-along "happening," then fades to a spooky duet between a tuneless guitar and radio static—El Goodo's self-titled debut album keeps getting close to the friendly buzz of hippie-era California, then retreating into the shadows.
Even the relatively cleaner songs have dark streaks, like "What Went Wrong?", which drops the distortion and plays up the pretty harmonies, in service of a mournful post-apocalyptic ballad that only lightens up at the end, when a majestic horn section pops in. El Goodo saves a lot of its sweetest moments for the final minutes of songs, like the lush strings that wrap up the cheery, noisy "If I Were A Song" (with its arch, title-completing line "I'd be about you, baby") or the trippy backward-masking that ushers out the Sunset Strip throwback "Surreal Morning." This is an album and a band full of happy surprises, and capable of making a song like "Stuck In The 60's"—with its Phil Spector rush and choral backing vocals—sound like both a promise and a threat.